Man bitten by venomous snake while swimming at Cheney Lake

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Grady Kornelson/Facebook Grady Kornelson/Facebook

A quick dip in Cheney Lake on Friday landed Grady Kornelson in hospital after being bitten by what’s believed to be a copperhead snake.

Kornelson, his 9-year-old daughter and his fiance were getting out of the water at Haven Cove just after dark when he felt the bite on his arm and saw a gray baby snake swimming toward his daughter and fiance.

The Hutchinson News reports he yelled for them to go around it and get out of the water.

“Because of my Boy Scout training we tied a tourniquet around it,” he said, as his fiance raced him to a Hutchinson hospital. When they arrived, they learned that tying a tourniquet for a snake bite was the wrong thing to do. It stops the blood flow.

Kornelson spent the weekend in ICU and was released Monday afternoon. He had received five doses of anti-venom. His right arm remains swollen, inflamed and bruised, following the bite on his forearm, about four inches from the elbow.

Kornelson originally thought he had been bitten by a water moccasin, otherwise known as a cottonmouth. The snake left three dots that bled.

But hospital staff told him that “poison control” confirmed it was a copperhead because his blood wasn’t thinning. Kornelson described the pain from the bite as excruciating.

“The pain felt like I was hit by an electric fence while wet,” he told the Hutchinson News. “On a scale of one to 10, it was a nine.”

Mike Miller, chief of information at Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and Tourism said unless they have a specimen or a photo of a specimen, he questions whether it was a copperhead.

“Cheney Lake is so far from the known existence of copperheads,” Miller said.

Both Miller and Daren Riedle, a wildlife diversity coordinator, said there are a variety of pit vipers, venomous snakes including massasauga rattlers and copperheads.

Riedle agreed Cheney Lake was “pretty far west for a copperhead, it’s farther west than we have specimens.”

Kornelson will undergo physical therapy and says he has no plans to return to Cheney Lake any time soon. 

Click here for information about venomous snakes in Kansas. 

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